Publication in Economic Botany

Based on critical responses to my ritualized mind alteration hypothesis of the origins of symbolic cognition in early human evolution, I was led to consider the possible availability of psychoactive substances in African and European prehistory. This led to a fruitful collaboration with Guzmán and Guzmán-Dávalos, who are experts on the genus Psilocybe. The result of our work has just been released in Economic Botany (click on title below for a preprint PDF).

On the origin of the genus Psilocybe and its potential ritual use in ancient Africa and Europe

Tom Froese, Gastón Guzmán, and Laura Guzmán-Dávalos

The role of altered states of consciousness in the production of geometric and figurative art by prehistoric cultures in Africa and Europe has been hotly debated. Helvenston and Bahn have tried to refute the most famous hypothesis, Lewis-Williams’ neuropsychological model, by claiming that appropriate visual hallucinations required the ingestion of LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline, while arguing that none of these compounds were available to the cultures in question. We present here mycological arguments that tell another story. A prehistoric worldwide distribution of the mushroom genus Psilocybe, and therefore of psilocybin, is supported by the existence of endemic species in America, Africa, and Europe, the disjunct distribution of sister species, and the possibility of long-distance spore dispersal. It is more difficult to point to instances of actual prehistoric ritual use in Africa and Europe, but there are a growing number of suggestive findings.

Selva Pascuala mural

Selva Pascuala mural, Spain

Game theoretic model of Maya warfare and the royal court

In collaboration with Roberto Ulloa we modeled the effects of Maya warfare on elite social network topology. The paper will be presented at this year’s ALIFE 2016 conference and will be published in its proceedings by MIT Press.

Nobility-targeting raids among the Classic Maya: Cooperation in scale-free networks persists under tournament attack when population size fluctuates

Roberto Ulloa and Tom Froese

Cooperation in scale-free networks has proven to be very robust against removal of randomly selected nodes (error) but highly sensitive to removal of the most connected nodes (attack). In this paper we analyze two comparable types of node removal in which the removal selection is based on tournaments where the fittest (raids) or the least fit (battles) nodes are chosen. We associate the two removals to two types of Maya warfare offences during the Classic period. During this period of at least 500 years, political leaders were able to sustain social order in spite of attack-like offences to their social networks. We present a computational model with a population fluctuation mechanism that operates under an evolutionary game theoretic approach using the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a metaphor of cooperation. We find that paradoxically battles are able to uphold cooperation under moderate levels of raids, although raids do have a strong impact on the network structure. We infer that cooperation does not depend as much on the structure as it does on the underlying mechanism that allows the network to readjust. We relate the results to the Maya Classic period, concluding that Mayan warfare by itself cannot entirely explain the Maya political collapse without appealing to other factors that increased the pressures against cooperation.

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First International Conference on Language and Enaction

I have been invited as a keynote speaker to the First International Conference on Language and Enaction, which will take place June 1-3 in Clermont-Ferrand, France.

The title and abstract of my talk are as follows:

From lower to higher, from self to other: Approaching the phenomenon of language from the bottom up

Tom Froese

The enactive approach to cognitive science is currently faced by the challenge of overcoming the cognitive gap between its theories of the basic organismic mind and specifically human capacities centered on symbolic cognition. At the same time there appears to be a tension between its self-related concepts, such as autopoiesis and adaptivity, and its other-related concepts, such as participatory sense-making and languaging. I argue that these tensions can be resolved in a complementary fashion by clarifying that enactive theory does not adhere to an internalist epistemology, which can be most clearly seen in terms of its rejection of methodological individualism. Once our thinking is freed from that isolating framework it becomes evident that the enactive approach has the potential to become a fruitful paradigm for linguistics. I finish by considering its implications for language evolution, in particular regarding claims of innateness based on the assumption of the poverty of the stimulus as well as gesture-first theories.

To kick off this trip to Europe I will also give two seminars:

On May 30 I will talk about “Ritualized mind alteration and the origins of the symbolic mind: Recent insights from cognitive science” at the Collegium Helveticum in Zurich.

And on May 31 I will give a talk with the title “Can we extend the sensorimotor approach to social perception?” at Kevin O’Regan’s FEEL project lab in Paris.

Special issue has been released!

It’s been a long time in the making, but finally it has come out: a special issue of Constructivist Foundations dedicated to a comprehensive reflection on the relationships between enaction and other alternative approaches to cognitive science! It is the biggest issue of the journal yet.

For a small donation you can get a print version of the special issue delivered to you! Please help to support this free online journal. Click the link for details: http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/subscriptions/voluntary.html

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Workshops at Artificial Life 2016

In addition to helping to organize this year’s International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE 2016), I am contributing to the organization of two associated workshops. Here are the calls for abstracts.

The Biological Foundations of Enactivism

The workshop will bring together researchers in enactive cognition, computational modeling, biology, and philosophy, to discuss the biological foundations of enactivism. Of particular interest are issues related to the maintenance of autonomous systems, and the origins of autonomous systems.

Submissions to the workshop are extended abstracts (1 or 2 pages). Contributions may be original or previously published. Accepted abstracts will be put online. Authors of accepted submissions will present their project to the workshop in a 5-10 minute talk.

Submission deadline is May 13, 2016.

Multidisciplinary Applications of Evolutionary Game Theory

Evolutionary game theory is profoundly interdisciplinary and the flow of knowledge between different fields is of crucial importance for its future development and application. The goal of the workshop is to show the state-of-the-art of the field and connect researchers with different backgrounds, from physicists and computer scientists to economists and sociologists and invite them to share ideas and learn from each other.

We invite the submission of 1- to 4-page abstracts (Alife conference format). Contributions will be evaluated on their merit for presentation. After the workshop, the most relevant contributions will be invited to provide an extended manuscript for a special issue on evolutionary game theory in the Artificial Life journal (MIT Press).

The deadline for the submission of abstracts is April 17th, 2016.

Norbert Wiener and the origins of cybernetics

Following on from the special issue of Ciencia dedicated to the work of Wiener, I’ve been invited to participate in the following event, which will take place March 9 at UNAM.

cartel_wiener

Series of seminars in Prague

The Department of Contemporary Continental Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences has invited me to give a series of seminars based on my research. The details can be found in the event poster:

Froese workshop in Prague

This trip is supported by a travel grant of the “Programa de Intercambio Académico de la Coordinación de la Investigación Científica” of UNAM.

De la cibernética a la nueva ciencia cognitiva

portadaThe official magazine of the Mexican Academy of Science, Ciencia, has just published a special issue on Norbert Wiener and the origins of cybernetics.

I was invited to contribute an article based on my research regarding the relationship between cybernetics and the new cognitive science.

Title and abstract are as follows:

De la cibernética a la nueva ciencia cognitiva

Tom Froese

El cibernético mexicano Rosenblueth y sus colegas Wiener y Bigelow argumentaban que el comportamiento dirigido a metas puede ser explicado por la retroalimentación negativa. Esta propuesta revolucionaria implicaba que nuestra experiencia al actuar intencionadamente podía hacerse compatible con una visión del mundo estrictamente científica, en la cual la naturaleza física no sigue ningún propósito. Años después, Wiener fundaría la cibernética bajo el principio de autogobierno, por ejemplo, con el uso de “bucles” de retroalimentación negativa para el control de máquinas. Sin embargo, los seres vivos no sólo son autogobernantes, sino que también, a través del metabolismo, son individuos físicamente autoproductivos. Esto es de importancia para el surgimiento de una nueva ciencia cognitiva que fundamenta el sentido de la existencia en el cuerpo biológico y, por lo tanto, en la mortalidad.

Upcoming tour of seminars in Japan

Thanks to the kind invitation of Prof. Shigeru Taguchi I will spend a week in Japan giving seminars at various institutions. The current schedule looks as follows:

  • Monday, Feb. 1: seminar on enactivism, biology of cognition, and predictive processing to be held at the Faculty of Philosophy and Cultural Sciences, Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2: seminar on the study of social interaction at the Laboratory of Autonomous Systems Engineering, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3: seminar on consciousness, the hypothesis of direct perception, and the problem of other minds, also at the Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University
  • Friday, Feb. 5: mini-workshop on the origins of the individual and a seminar on the implications of a movement-first approach to the origins of life and the genetic system, both to be held at the Earth-Life Science Institute of the Tokyo Institute of Technology

I am looking forward to seeing Sapporo and Tokyo again soon!

81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology

Teotihuacan-style_incense_burner_depicting_a_ruler_and_his_court,_Maya,_Early_Classic_Period,_250-600_AD,_ceramic_-_Royal_Ontario_Museum_-_DSC04482This year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) will take place April 6-10, in Orlando, Florida.

I will present a continuation of my ongoing project to model the collective political organization of ancient Teotihuacan in collaboration with archaeologist Linda Manzanilla.

Our contribution was invited to take place in a special session: “The Rise and Decline of Teotihuacan: Urbanism, Daily Life, and Regional Relations through Time”.

The title and abstract are as follows:

A network theoretical analysis of the emergence of co-rulership in ancient Teotihuacan, Central Mexico

Tom Froese and Linda R. Manzanilla

The political organization of Teotihuacan continues to be unknown. While some researchers see evidence for a powerful centralized hierarchy, others argue for a more collective form of government. We created an abstract computer model of hypothetical social relations among neighborhood-level representatives to show that such a distributed political network could in principle have been sufficient for globally optimal decision making, as long as there are community rituals and sections of the city are not too independent (Froese, Gershenson and Manzanilla 2014). These conditions were most likely satisfied during the early periods of the city. However, there is evidence that during the final stages some neighborhood centers become more isolated and independent, and the city as a whole became organized into four districts. Our model suggests that such social fractioning would have undermined a purely horizontally organized collective government. But Manzanilla has hypothesized that four co-rulers governed the city at the district level during this period. We therefore introduced this hierarchical level into our model to verify if such a mixed organization could have addressed some of the issues associated with a fractioning of the underlying social system. We discuss our modeling results in the context of archeological evidence.

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